June 4, 2023

NEW DELHI : The Union health ministry plans to ask doctors in private hospitals to start prescribing generic medicines instead of expensive branded medicines to their patients.

As part of the plan, the Centre will ask doctors to prescribe generic medicines starting with Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) beneficiaries at private hospitals.

This comes in the backdrop of complaints of doctors prescribing costly branded medicines despite the availability of cheaper generic options.

“Recently, the health ministry issued an alert to all the doctors in the Central Government Hospitals/CGHS Wellness Centres / Polyclinics to prescribe generic medicines only. It was observed that doctors (including residents) in some instances continue to prescribe branded medicines. This has been viewed strictly by the competent authority,” an official said on condition of anonymity.

“In the same way, we are now planning to warn doctors in the private hospitals to prescribe generic medicines to the patients and to initiate this, it will be mandatory for all doctors’ treating CGHS patients to prescribe generic drugs,” the official said adding that the directions are likely to be issued soon.

Queries sent to the health ministry remained unanswered.

Notably, the health ministry is taking several steps to promote generic medicines. As per the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002, every physician should prescribe drugs with generic names legibly and preferably in capital letters.

In addition to this, the National Medical Commission Act, 2019, empowers the State Medical Councils and Ethics and Medical Registration Board (EMRB) of the Commission to take disciplinary action against a doctor for violating the regulations.

Meanwhile, the Medical Devices Bureau of India (PMBI) under the Department of Pharmaceuticals has established around 9,000 Janaushadhi Kendras, which sell around 1,759 varieties of generic drugs and 280 surgical instruments.

According to government data, these Kendras clocked sales of more than 1000 crore in FY23, which has led to savings of approximately 6000 crores for the citizens.

India is the largest and exclusive generic drug exporter in the world. It exported $19.02 billion worth of generics during FY22. In India, the generic market in 2021 was estimated at $360 billion and is likely to grow at just 3-4% in the next couple of years.

Explaining why most doctors in private hospitals prescribe branded medicines to patients, Dr Sharad Aggarwal, president, Indian Medical Association said, “There is a perception that branded drugs have quality and effective. If government really wants that only generic drugs should be prescribed in India, then why the doctor is allowing the branded drugs to be produced in India.”

“The government should ensure all the generic drugs or even the branded drugs should come with the certificates from the laboratories that what is the bioavailability of that drug because then doctors should not be held responsible for inefficacy of the drug. Then, our job is to prescribe the medicines and whether it is effective or not effective, we should not be responsible. Doctors have no control on the drug business because MRP is decided by the government. We have seen a lot of patients saying that the medicines available in government hospitals are less effective then medicines available outside. Why patients are saying like this… because any medicines which is available at different rates, then there is some difference in the quality.”

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Updated: 27 May 2023, 12:58 AM IST

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